Prayer and devotion has been a part of Assamese culture and the lives of the people through the ages. A routine-set lifestyle in a majorly agrarian civilization has lain a seat of peace across the region.
Deeply imbibed in the Assamese way of life is the traditional devotional music called Borgeet. This style was composed by Srimanta Sankardeva during the late 15th century, and later continued by his disciple Madhavdeva.
Borgeet are associated with the propagation of Vaishnav Dharma in Assam and is at sung religious ceremonies and cultural performances. Vaishnavism was not merely a religion, but also presented a way of life to its followers. Sattras were the main centres where the Vaishnavite gurus, including Srimanta Sankardeva, preached. Students of the Dharma would reside in here and live a life of purity dedicated to God. It was in these Sattras where Borgeet were first sung and taught, in addition to other forms of music, dance and drama.
Borgeet have a special place in Assamese literature. The songs have been composed in the Brajavali language, which is a mixture of Maithili (a language spoken in many areas of North India) and Assamese. The songs are poems written in excellent agreement of prose and emotion, and the tune given to the string of words soothes the ears and mind of the listener.
This style of music was composed in accordance to the rules of Ragas and Talas. Ragas are families of core musical combination of the tunes and depict certain emotion. Talas are used to relate the music to time intervals. Srimanta Sankardeva invented an instrument called “Khol” which is played while the Borgeet is sung.
The primary theme of the Borgeet is the “Bhagawat Purana” and the paragraphs in the song depict instances from the life of Lord Krishna. There are different songs based on the childhood, activities and in praise of the Lord. There is a primary stanza, called the “Dhrung”, which is repeated, as a catchphrase, over and over again during the presentation. As the Borgeet are composed based on Ragas, they are sung during different hours of the day, just like the latter. They are also sung as preceding sections of “Kirtans” during devotional services.
The tradition of singing has been carried well into the modern day. In addition to the Namghors and Sattras, Borgeet have also found their way into electronic media. Popular artists across Assam have recorded their voice in the Borgeet, making this precious form of music available for listeners across the world and preserving the age old tradition, on the go.